The Montreal Canadiens and Montreal Stars announced a partnership agreement this evening at the Bell Centre.
The agreement is not unique to Montreal as the Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames already have similar agreements in place, but you get the feeling that something is different about this partnership. When the Maple Leafs made their announcement, it was done by then-Vice President of Hockey Operations Dave Poulin. Calgary’s announcement is nowhere to be found but it is mentioned on their website.
The Canadiens announcement was led by President and CEO Geoff Molson. Chief Operating Officer Kevin Gilmore was also available to the media afterwards. But it wasn’t just their presence that made this different, it was also what Molson had to say.
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“Brenda came to see me a couple of years ago, to talk about the opportunity,” Molson said. “We wanted to do it our way. We wanted to do it the Montreal Canadiens way. It took us all this time to come to the agreement we are announcing today,” he said.
“We want to be involved with the team, we want to help them develop the market. We want to participate in their operations. We want the team and its players to become more visible. Our promotional machine is very strong.”
The fact that Molson mentions the “Canadiens Way” shows that they don’t want this partnership to be only behind the scenes. The Canadiens will help with marketing and promotion like the other teams do, but for the team to take part in their operations is more than any of their CWHL counterparts are doing.
This isn’t to downplay the other partnerships. Toronto has hosted the CWHL All-Star Game and other CWHL games at the Air Canada Centre while Calgary announced the new name and logo of the team before a Flames pre-season game.
But, let’s face it. The Canadiens in the new-Molson era don’t screw up much. They have built strong links to the community and that is a major part of this agreement as well.
Charline Labonte, the Stars goaltender and former Canadian Olympian, mentioned that Quebec has 7,000 girls playing hockey while Ontario has over four times that amount. Molson mentioned that he wants to help the Stars develop the market.
Molson also said that the Stars can help the Canadiens in the community. He says their help with the Canadiens Children’s Foundation as well as taking part in hockey schools are areas where the Stars will help the Canadiens with this partnership. The Canadiens announced that they will host their first all-girl hockey schools as well.
CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress was asked about a league-wide partnership with the National Hockey League, but says that the team partnerships are important to set up first.
“These types of agreements between teams is essential to building the grass roots programs, and building the fan bases. These partnerships have more potential for us,” Andress said.
“We often forget that women’s hockey is still a young sport,” said Labonte. “Men’s hockey has been around for a long time. Women’s hockey had their first Olympics in 1998. The goal is to become a big league and to have the players be paid but there are steps we need to take before we can get to that point.”
There are opportunities that Molson mentioned they wanted to look at right away. He started with the name, which as Molson mentioned, is unilingual at this point. He also mentioned that the jerseys could be changed as well as having the team using Canadiens facilities such as the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard or the new arena in Laval that will also host the Canadiens AHL affiliate when it opens.
No changes were immediately confirmed at this time, but you get the idea that there could be a lot of changes coming for the Stars.